Bible Question:

Is it possible to be in an adulterous or sinful relationship with your first wife if you were never in love with her in the first place, i.e. you felt you had to marry because you were told she was pregnant and you were trying to do the honorable thing? (She was not). I am in love with someone else, not my wife, even though I have not found that person yet. (I have been married for almost 30 years and we have been hurting each other for most of it.) I am not necessarily seeking a reason to get out of the relationship. I am just trying to understand how God views marriage and what constitutes a godly marriage. Some have said that God did not support my current marriage from the beginning and I am actually working against His will.

Bible Answer:

From God’s perspective a marriage relationship is not established when a couple has sexual intercourse. Otherwise, rape would constitute a marriage and any incestuous act would establish a marriage relationship. Neither is a marriage established when a couple starts living together. Therefore, our question is, ” What constitutes a godly marriage?”

What Makes A Godly Marriage?

Marriage Is Not Established By Love

Marriage is not established when two people love one another. Adam and Eve are the first example of this truth. Genesis 2:7 teaches that Adam was created first and Genesis 2:21-25 states that Eve was created next. Adam and Eve did not date one another. They did not employ a dating service. They did not have time to become acquainted. They did not tell one another that they loved each other and then decide to get married. They did not live together to determine the false idea of compatibility. Instead, Eve was created from Adam’s side. She was presented to Adam and they were married. The marriage was God’s idea and the couple learned to love one another. Isaac and Rebekah are another example of a marriage where a couple did not love one another first. In fact, they did not even know one another before they were married (Genesis 24:62-67). They learned to love one another.

Marriage Is Established By A Legal Contract

In Deuteronomy 24:1 we discover that Moses referred to a “certificate of divorce.” That is, there was a formal and legal process for dissolving a marriage. This reveals that a marriage was established in a formal process even in the Old Testament. The reader is encouraged to visit, “Did marriage licenses or contracts exist in Bible times?” Therefore, a formal process was required to dissolve the marriage.

Malachi 2:14 makes it clear that marriage was established by a formal commitment that was recognized by government.

. . . though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Malachi 2:14 (NASB)

In Ezekiel 16:8 God uses the same concept of a covenant or a formal agreement to establish a marriage to describe His relationship with the nation of Israel. The same comparison is described in Proverbs 2:17 and Hosea 2:16-20.  That is, God considers marriage to be binding until one of the spouses dies.

A verse that is often missed when discussing marriage is Genesis 2:24.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 (NASB)

It is important to notice the word “joined.” The Hebrew word has the idea of a permanent connection. We could say the couple is super-glued together so that they would never come apart. The verse means they must leave their parents home. It means they will be permanently attached to one another. The marriage is binding.

Also notice the following verses indicate that God considers marriage to be permanent.

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. Matthew 19:6 (NASB)

For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. Romans 7:2-3 (NASB)

Divorce Is Permitted Only For Violations of The Covenant

Yet, God allows divorce when one of the spouses violates the marital covenant (Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:5-12; Luke 16:18). In Matthew 19:4-9 Jesus tells us that the reason God allows divorce is because of the hardness of our hearts. But He only allows divorce when 1) one of the spouses violates the marriage covenant by having sexual intercourse with someone other than his or her spouse, or 2) if an unbelieving spouse chooses to abandon the marriage. Please visit “Biblical Divorce and Remarriage” for more information.

I Do Not Love My Wife

Therefore, what should a Christian do if he or she does not love his or her spouse? The answer is to confess the lack of love for one’s spouse as a sin, since husbands are commanded to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25) and wives are commanded to love their husbands (Titus 2:4). If a believer loves someone else more than their spouse, then that is a sin. A godly marriage exists when both spouses love God more than themselves. Therefore, they will seek to please God and not themselves. That  includes loving their spouse and remaining in the marriage. To divorce a spouse due to a lack of love is not only a sin; it will bring God’s discipline on one’s life.

How can you start loving your spouse? You must start by admitting to God that you have sinned by not loving your spouse. You will have to repeat that confession each time you feel a lack of love for your spouse. You must also spend time in the reading and study of the Bible,  in prayer to God asking the Holy Spirit to take control of your life and to fill your heart with God’s love for your spouse.  That is the key to loving your spouse. The reader is encouraged to visit, “God’s Will – Be Filled With The Spirit.” You can also read, “How To Be Filled With The Spirit.” If you faithfully follow the Lord’s command, you will find that your heart attitude toward your spouse will change.

A godly marriage will only occur when both spouses are spiritually mature and are continuing to grow spiritually. This will only occur when each spouse is following the advice above and are also following God’s command to regularly attend church (Hebrews 10:23-25). A spiritually mature spouse will be humble and the fruit of the Spirit will be growing in his or her life (Galatians 5:22-23). The husband and wife will obey the pattern for godly marriage that God has established in Scripture. For more information about a godly marriage visit “Marriage In Splendor – God’s View.”

Conclusion:

Ephesians 5:25 tells us that a husband is to love his wife just as Christ loves the church. This is a command. It is not an option. If you are a real Christian, the only remaining question is, “Whom do you love more, yourself or Christ?” If you love Christ more, then you will follow Him in obedience and love your wife as Christ loves the church.

Suggested Links:

Did marriage licenses or contracts exist in Bible times?
God’s Will – Be Filled With The Spirit
How To Be Filled With The Spirit
Marriage In Splendor - God's View
God’s Original Design For Marriage
Marital Paradise Lost
The Privileges of a Wife
The Privileges of a Husband
Why does God hate divorce if He allows it?
What does the Bible mean by a “one-flesh” relationship?